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Physics/Nobel Prize - "Technology Innovation".

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Question
Dear Dr Jeffery

http://www.nobelprize.org/‎

Nobel Prizes are given in the field of "Physics", "Chemistry", "Physiology/Medicine", "Literature", "Peace" Categories.

Do you feel a New Category can be introduced in "Technology Innovation" ?.

For examples :

Tim Berners Lee - Founder of World Wide Web
Dr Eric Schmidt - Founder of Google

etc

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

Answer
This is a touchy subject for some - with many arguments for expanding or retaining the current fields.  The best I can do here is provide my opinion, which is strong, pointed and something I researched while obtaining a science and technology policy degree before finishing my PhD work.

To answer your question directly:

No. Absolutely not.  Certainly not for the accomplishments of Lee and Schmidt, or anyone in that school of accolades.

Reason 1
The roots of the prize: Nobel's will was particularly clear what the Nobel Prize should be and what it should stand for in these disciplines.  Ultimately the prize is an expression of his foundation and his desire to see a specific type of contribution recognized in a very specific way.  To fail to adhere to this is the same as allowing any foundation (or trust that was set up to do a very specific thing) to do as it wishes and ignore the founding intent.  The problem with our current interpretation of what the Nobel Prize stands for is the issue here.  We have taken it to be a prize awarded to individuals based on the absolute value of a contribution to the world.  That is not what the prize is meant to be.  The specifics for selection and Nobel's intent are laid out pretty clearly - and it certainly was not for the prize to be a highly publicized and hotly debated issue.  We, the public, did this though - we arbitrarily decided that the Nobel was the worlds prize.  It is not.  It is a foundation's award based on a predetermined criteria applied to very specific types of achievements.  If the world wants a prize, with different metrics in different disciplines, then let the United Nations or the World Health Organization or the World Bank put something together. Even the addition of the "Economics" award (which the Nobel Prize offices are quick to point out is not an actual Nobel Prize) was a hugely contested concession in terms of allowing a non-Nobel dictated award to use monies from the endowment.

Reason 2 following on reason 1:
There are no ultimate awards for a discipline, the desire to make it so is a human construction to provide a false sense of aggrandizement.  It is a politically manufactured state when one finds oneself in a belief system where a prize is said to dictate actual value or awards true value.  This said - anything that draws the public's attention to great (or even small) deeds in science and may motivate young people to choose a scientific lifepath is a good thing in my opinion.  Also, there are already a bunch of very well thought out prizes given by professional societies, international organizations and government bodies around the world that (both my opinion and that of others in the scientific community) are more consistent and more knowledgeable in conveying accolades and awards. Take the field of chemistry: one example is the Priestly Medal given out by the American Chemical Society each year, usually for a lifetime of work & the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) is particularly outstanding at rewarding specific research, especially as it relates to relatively young researchers (30-45 year old).  While I am certain that there are a degree of politics in these as well, it is certainly nothing compared to the Nobel Prize.  The professional awards are also self regulating: membership for these organizations includes a world wide community of scientists that are quite particular about what is good and meaningful work.

Reason 3:  'Technology innovation' is not a viable award type. Let us for just a moment ignore the fact that the public has no say in how the Nobel Prize is awarded, pretend that an award can be made to the best contribution in a given field (which it cannot - only time can tell, and even that is hotly debated) AND that additional award fields should be generated.  In the spirit and the letter of the award, the intent is to recognize the most impacting work in the last year in terms of human welfare.  Simply put, the idea of 'technology innovation' as a category is then preposterous.  Rather (and you will find this echoed online and in the news) it should be noted that the commercialization or application of a technology is NOT what is awarded - regardless of whether it was innovative.  We have free markets to reward those people.  If I had to choose something, I would target fields like "Public and Environmental Health" or "Applied Mathematics and Informantics" or "Education" or "Organismal and Ecological Biology".

A final note on perspective: Recognizing and rewarding technological innovation alone is something that occurs in business heavy applications already.  These people are well known, extremely wealthy and fee to pursue whatever they desire. However, when a scientist or author or policy entity makes a major contribution, it is often difficult to focus funding, interest and support even when the contribution is important to humanity.  While I have made a long argument for the Nobel Prize to NOT be the worlds prize, I would rather see that striving and achieving a meaningful expansion in humanities understanding of the world be recognized by rewarding and making public the great achievements of modern free thinkers.

Example: Nobody will ever be confused about what you have done when you can say "I developed the World Wide Web"  - however, if someone says "I found a new hormonal response in honey bees" it is nice to have a prize that points out why that is amazing to the public... like "Worthy of international recognition because it allowed us to pick pesticides that do not lead to bee colony collapse and increased food production the world over".

I usually keep my opinions out my responses, but it seemed like you were looking for my feelings and perspective here.  If you were looking for something else, please feel free to follow up.

Take care!

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Dr. Jeffery Raymond

Expertise

Materials chemistry. Materials science. Spectroscopy. Polymer science. Physical Chemistry. General Physics. Technical writing. General Applied Mathematics. Nanomaterials. Optoelectronic Behavior. Science Policy.

Experience

Teaching: General Inorganic Chemistry I & II, Organic Chemistry I & II, Physical Chemistry I, Polymeric Materials, General Physics I, Calculus I & II
My prior experience includes the United States Army and three years as a development chemist in industry. Currently I am the Assistant Director of the Laboratory for Synthetic Biological Interactions. All told, 13 years of experience in research, development and science education.

Organizations
Texas A&M University, American Chemical Society, POLY-ACS, SPIE

Publications
Journal of the American Chemical Society, Nanoletters, Journal of Physical Chemistry C, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, Ultramicroscopy Proceedings of SPIE, Proceedings of MRS, Polymer News, Chemical and Engineering News, Nano Letters, Small, Chemistry.org, Angewandte

Education/Credentials
PhD Macromolecular Science and Engineering (Photophysics/Nanomaterials Concentration), MS Materials Science, BS Chemistry and Physics, Graduate Certificate in Science Policy, AAS Chemical Technology, AAS Engineering Technology

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